Cyber Monday Impulse Buying


Cyber Monday is one of those recent inventions that seems a bit suspect. Is the Monday after Thanksgiving really the biggest ecommerce sales day? It looks like Cyber Monday will have to work hard to beat Black Friday, when reports indicate that shoppers spent over $500 million online. Just in time for the online sales blitz, Web marketing expert Gord Hotchkiss has written a thoughtful post on Web impulse buying. Hotchkiss brings together interesting research on website impulse buying with some of the neuromarketing/neuroeconomics research on purchases that we’ve previously cited to suggest a model for ecommerce impulse buys:

I suspect we get into shopping ?modes? where the parts of the brain associated with acquisition of a product sustain some activity. We?re prepared to buy, so the nucleus accumbens kicks into gear and keeps firing. We?re in ?buy? mode. And we?ve accepted that we have budget available. We start out looking for the product we intended to buy, but, on the way, if we see something we also decide we need, especially in a related category, our ?buying? mechanism is already activated. We?re already primed to consider purchase. We?re not looking for a bargain (although finding one certainly wouldn?t hurt), but by the same token, an outrageous price would probably shut down the process by kicking in the insula. Think of the insula as the brain?s sprinkler system, snuffing out any impulsive sparks before we burn ourselves. As long as the price is reasonable, and doesn?t introduce significant ?pain? we?re more likely to purchase. [From The Web’s Biggest Impulse Shopping Day.]

Hotchkiss draws on What Causes Customers to Buy on Impulse? by Jared Spool. This is a short but informative white paper that shows Web shoppers are far more likely to make impulse purchases when browsing by product category than when using the site’s search engine. Here’s why Spool thinks that happens:

Our studies reveal that there are at least two reasons for this behavior. First, when shoppers used the category links, they were exposed to more of the site?s product lines. If users search for a specific product, say DVD players, they only see DVD players. However, when they click through the hierarchy of the site, they are seeing the breadth of the products available.

Second, we noticed that when shoppers used the category links, they viewed more product pages. Only one out of every five shoppers who used a search engine actually looked at a product page for a potential impulse purchase. By contrast, almost all the shoppers who used the category links looked at two or more potential impulse product pages.

It’s too late to redesign an ecommerce site for this year’s Cyber Monday, but the effectiveness of stimulating impulse buying by making category browsing easy for users is a good thing to keep in mind – even without knowing what’s going on in the customer’s nucleus accumbens.

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